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Seneca tribe
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Seneca tribe

The Seneca Tribe, or Onodowohgah (People of the Hill Top), traditionally lived in New York State between the Genesee River and Canandaigua Lake. After the prehistoric formation of the League of the Iroquois (Hodenosaunee), they became the Keepers of the Western Door. Today many members of this tribe live on several reservations in Western New York, including one that contains the city of Salamanca NY.

Traditionally, the economy was based on cultivation of corn, beans, and squash (the three sisters), primarily by the women, and hunting and fishing by the men. During the colonial period they became involved in the fur trade, first with the Dutch and then with the British. This served to increase hostility with other native groups, especially their traditional enemy, the Huron, an Iroquoian tribe in French Canada near Lake Simcoe. During the 17th century, attacks on Huron villages caused the destruction and dispersal of the Huron. Captivess who were not tortured to death were adopted into the tribe.

During the American Revolution, the Seneca along with their immediate neighbor in the League, the Cayuga, carried out many raids on American settlements and strongholds, instigated by the British at Fort Niagara. These raids were reduced after the Clinton and Sullivan Expedition destroyed many Cayuga villages. Divisions in the League from mixed loyalties of its members to the British or Americans weakened its power.

The Seneca, like other League members, were known as the People of the Long House. They lived in villages, often surrounded by palisades due to warfare, which moved every ten or fifteen years as soil and game were depleted. During the 19th century they adopted many of the customs of their white neighbors, building log cabins and participating in the local agricultural economy.

Today some Seneca are involved in the sale of (untaxed) low-priced gasoline and cigarettes and high stakes bingo. They are debating their involvement in legalized gambling on reservation lands. Others are employed in the local economy of the region. The three reservations of the Seneca are the Allegheny at Jamestown, New York, the Cattaraugus near Gowanda, New York, and the Oil Springs, near Cuba, New York. Few, if any, Seneca reside at Oil Springs. An independent group live on the Tonawanda Reservation near Akron, New York. Other Seneca live in association with the Cayuga in Miami, Oklahoma or on the Six Nations of the Grand River reserves near Brantford, Ontario, Canada.

The Seneca formed a modern government, the Seneca Nation of Indians, in 1848, but the traditional tribal government still retains some power.

Notable Senecas include Red Jacket, Cornplanter, Handsome Lake and Ely S. Parker (Hasanoanda).